To be perfectly honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Penang food. I like it, but I’m not gaga over it. So when friends suggested going for a Penang buffet at York Hotel, I didn’t have much expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually liked the food by the end of the night.
York Hotel has been bringing in street hawkers from Penang 3 times a year for 30 years (!!) to the hotel to offer this, to me, pretty unique buffet. 12 stalls transplanted from Penang to the hotel cafe space, everyone cooking their specialties. Every plate is great for tasting, so it is possible to try out all 12 stalls and still go back for seconds of your favourite dishes. The beauty of this buffet is that you get a taste of Penang without the scorching heat of eating on the streets. Win.
On to the food I tried 11 out of 12 stalls, leaving out the rojak because I don’t eat rojak. I went straight for the Penang Assam Laksa – I like assam laksa, so different from the Singapore laksa, but still so good. It didn’t disappoint, it was delicious – tangy, slightly sweet, spicy, perfect for whetting appetites.
Other dishes that I liked were the Kway Teow Soup, which looked so unassuming, but oh man, when you take a sip of the broth, it’s like a party in your mouth. So full of flavour without MSG. I could easily have had seconds, but it was the last dish I got and I was stuffed.
The Char Kway Teow was really good too, not as sweet as our local version, which I liked. This was obviously the most popular stall as it constantly had a queue, but the chefs were really fast and served everyone very quickly. Nothing beats a freshly fried plate of char kway teow!
For desserts, there was Ban Chang Kueh, which are essentially, pancakes filled with sugar and peanuts. Most often, the version I find is the fluffy pancakes, which are great too, but this version had a thin casing, where the chef pretty much just brushed the batter onto the pan, so you get a crispy case for your sugar and peanuts. Is it almost like a biscuit. So good. Easily my favourite dish of the night.
Then, there were Chendol and Ice Kacang. Friends tried the ice kacang and said that it was nothing to write home about, so I skipped that and went straight for the cendol. Which was lovely. Shaved ice, coconut milk, kidney beans, green cendol, topped with gula melaka. Not too sweet, which is important, and just a wonderful way to end dinner.
Now, for the not so good – the Oyster Omelette had a bit of a strange taste, the Lor Bak was nice, but nothing special. The Nasi Lemak with Nonya Chicken Kapitan, which I had high hopes for, turned out to be a disappointment because, for one, the sambal chilli was sweet…hmm…just nope. The rice was fragrant and curry was decent, but the meat was tough, and almost impossible to cut through, which was pretty amazing considering that it was chicken.
The most bizarre dish of the night was the Roti Babi ( I think), some meat filling sandwiched between 2 slices of bread, fried and topped with with some sweet vinegary sauce. Didn’t work at all for me.
I also tried the Prawn Noodle and the Kang Kong Cuttlefish. Both were good, but they aren’t a must try.
In all, I thought that the food and the experience were rather worth it for the price ($29++). There was also free flow of lime juice and bandung (rose syrup with condensed milk drink). It was crowded, but waiting time for the food was minimal and the food generally was of great quality.
For fun and giggles, they also have a room where they placed props like the old school ice shaving machine where you can pose for photos too. The sad thing is that the buffet is over for the 2nd installment this year, BUT, it will be back in December 2016 and probably next year as well. So keep a look out for it!